Chapter 47, The Epilogue
Disclaimer: I don't own it.
She stood at the foot of the porch stairs, arms crossed, refusing to step up. "Are you serious?"
"Get up here. They're all waiting for you."
I knew I shouldn't have let it slip that there was a party for her waiting on the other side of that door. But the excitement had gotten to me.
"Paul," she whined. "I hate parties. You know that. Can't we just tell everyone to go home?"
"Not a chance in hell. Get your ass up here. We're going in there. You are going to smile at everyone. You are going to accept the birthday presents with grace. You'll even eat the damn cake and ice cream."
Grumbling, she finally stomped up the stairs. "I hate you."
I couldn't wipe the smirk off my face. She looked so cute with that little pout. There weren't many things that could make Jenna act like a toddler, but apparently I had just found one. The woman hated being the center of attention. But, she would only turn eighteen once. This was a big birthday. A very big birthday.
"Don't forget to smile," I teased as I reached forward to open Sam's door.
Her lips were pulled into a tense grin when the living room was revealed, but I could see, and feel, the flash of unease that went through her when she saw just how much trouble we all went to for her. Sam's living room had never been so full of streamers and balloons. And the place was packed.
Emily rushed forward to pull my mate into a tight hug. The two had become close over the past year. Leah and Jake were still off healing, which left Emily, Kim and Jenna behind to form a tightly knit sisterhood.
Sam sent me a large grin, eyes sparkling. Of course every pack member in the room had heard our entire exchange on the porch. They were all secretly laughing over her reluctance to celebrate with us. She'd thrown the same fit when we suggested a graduation party, and she hadn't even been the sole focus of that party. We'd all backed off of that idea when she threatened to take away our meals again. That shit wasn't funny.
I figured she'd be okay with this party once she saw my gift.
Embry elbowed Jenna with a grin. "So, Birthday Girl, what'll it be first? Food or presents?"
She scowled at him, earning a laugh from everyone in the room. She couldn't hold the expression for long though. Jenna couldn't stay mad at Embry. She was too relieved to have him back. Quil and Embry had strolled into town just two weeks earlier, after nearly a year of being gone. Jake had sent them back, to rejoin Sam.
He was starting to heal, finally. For the longest time he'd fought it. He pushed his friends away. He did everything but outright Alpha order them to leave. It was hard on them to stay and watch him suffer, but that's what friends did. They stuck around, even when it was hard. Especially when it was hard.
Jake was a little easier on Leah. He knew she wasn't there to try to talk him out of his bitterness over Bella's decision. She was there for the same reasons he was, really. La Push held too many memories for her. Sam's pack was too painful. He understood that she couldn't waste the opportunity his leaving presented. So, they just kind of tolerated each other. He was a little less caustic in his dealings with the lone female of their pack. And she was far less bitter toward her new leader than she had ever been toward her old.
Eventually though, Jake had started to come to terms with Bella's decision. It came time to step away from the denial. She was always going to make that choice. She'd just made it in different circumstances, with a different set of monsters. And when he finally faced that fact, he was able to start dealing with how that affected his life, his future. Obviously, she wasn't ever meant for him. As painful as that was, it was the truth. He had to deal with the pain of that truth, and move on.
The most shocking information Quil and Embry shared though, was how Jake chose to move on. Leah and Jake had decided that they were going to be a couple. To hell with imprinting. They were going to be together. They could live forever. If one or the other imprinted, well, they could wait for that phase of the partner's life to pass. Then they would be together again. It seemed like a very deliberate, too logically thought out decision for me. But, it wasn't my relationship to analyze.
My relationship didn't need analysis. Jenna was amazing. I couldn't believe there was ever a time in my life when I thought imprinting could be a bad thing. She was the best thing that had ever happened to me. And I was going to spend the rest of my life making sure that I was the same for her.
I was going to kill Paul when we got home. He knew I didn't want a party. I specifically told him not to plan a birthday party for me. And what did he do? Plan a surprise party for me, which was even worse.
"So? Food or presents?" Embry asked again.
"Food." As if I would ask these guys to wait for food. I wasn't crazy.
They ushered me into Emily's kitchen. I had to take a moment to admire the huge cake the poor woman had made for me. It looked like a wedding cake. It was gorgeous, with multiple levels and what looked like professional decorations. She had really outdone herself. She had to have spent forever on that thing. And it would be devoured in a matter of minutes.
"You really shouldn't have, Emily."
She pulled me into a one-armed hug, beaming toward her cake. "Of course I should have! This is your special day."
Paul quickly lit the candles. Then he placed a hand on my back and gently pushed me forward. "Make a wish."
I ignored his teasing tone. He was enjoying my discomfort too much. He would pay for that later. We'd see just how much he enjoyed it when I slept in my old room. He hadn't slept alone since the vampire war.
I wasn't one for wishes, so I simply blew out the candles. Wrinkling my nose at the smell, I turned to Emily. "Want me to cut it and serve?"
She waved my offer away. "Sit down. You're the guest of honor."
She smacked Brady's hand out of the way, moving with lightening-quick reflexes. "No. You aren't swiping any icing either. Wait your turn."
Moving with practiced efficiency, she set up an assembly line with Kim scooping ice cream while Emily plated the cake. Then Sam passed them out. In minutes everyone had a slice. For a few blissful seconds there was silence as the wolves filled their mouths. Then they were going back to get more.
Paul cleaned his plate, but instead of getting up to get another slice of cake, he stayed in his seat next to me. I could feel his eyes on me as I slid my fork from my mouth. Turning to him, I raised my eyebrows in silent question. He shook his head, darting his gaze down to his empty plate. I watched him from the corner of my eye as I finished my cake. He played with his fork, running it through the little bit of ice cream that had melted on his plate before he could eat it.
As I watched him I could feel anxiety trickling over our bond. Since we had deepened our relationship, I had gotten a lot better at noticing things like that. More seemed to come across the bond too. Especially after we grew closer physical. I would know when Paul was having a really bad day even while he was on patrol and I was sitting in class. After practicing with it we had learned that I could send him little bursts of emotion to counteract whatever he was feeling, when he needed it. So, I sent him a shot of love.
Immediately his hand moved to my back. It was his way of silently thanking me.
As soon as the last forkful of cake crossed my lips, Paul leaned in and whispered in my ear. "Hey, wanna come outside with me for a second?"
"Um, sure," I mumbled around my mouthful.
He led me away from the house, so he must have wanted some privacy. Finally, he stopped, turning to me with a nervous smile. "I wanted to give you your present away from everyone else."
"Oh, okay." I said slowly, smiling encouragingly at him. What on earth could he have gotten me that he would want to give me in private?
It was probably embarrassing.
And then he slowly lowered himself down to one knee.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a little box.
"Yes," I breathed out quietly.
Chuckling, Paul rolled his eyes. "Can I at least ask the question first?"
I laughed at myself. "Sorry. Go ahead."
"Jenna, I love everything about you and all I want out of this life is to make you happy. Marry me?"
Smiling, I reached my hand out to him. "Yes."
Everyone was smiling at us when we walked back into the house. I glanced over at Paul, wondering if maybe they had heard the proposal. He had taken us far enough away to avoid their eavesdropping, right?
"Come on, it's time for presents!" Collin urged, pulling at my hand. He stopped as he noticed the new addition digging into his palm. "Damn, that thing's huge, Paul. You sell a kidney to afford that?"
I pulled my hand out of Collin's and moved over to the couch. "Okay, let's do this."
I smiled at John where he was standing with Anderson across the room. John smiled back, his eyes twinkling. He nodded his head toward the ring, his smiled widening. He didn't look the least bit surprised.
Seth held out a package for me. When I reached to grab it, he pulled it back slightly. "Now, don't get all excited before you even open it."
My cheeks heated up as the room burst into laughter. Dammit, they'd heard the whole proposal.
Paul quickly took the seat next to me, pulling me into a hug. "Ignore them."
Nodding, I pulled away from him. "Come here, Anderson."
He ran over from his Uncle John, giving me a big hug. Then I had him rip open all of the presents I received. He'd have more fun with it anyway. And it would be good practice for his upcoming second birthday party. Leaning into Paul's side, I looked down at the little boy happily tearing into the colored paper. Then I looked around the room at all of the smiling faces. They were all here for me, to celebrate my birthday. Each of these people loved me, as a friend, as a niece, as a soon to be wife.
I'd fled to La Push out of desperation. To keep from being separated from my son. But I had found something precious here. I found a family.